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Community Review

Devouring Stanley Park

Taylor’s work is easy to access, rich and free flowing the reader slips and slides through his loving descriptions of haute cuisine, wrapped as lovingly as phyllo pastry in the sights and sounds of downtown Vancouver. The restaurant is set in cross-town, which I can only assume is the nether regions of downtown, the clash between the DTES, touristy Gas town and hip and expensive Rail town. The beat is familiar, Taylor navigates it well.

When I first read this book (as with a nice glass of wine), I wasn’t really anticipating much more than that. Hunger, maybe some musings over the importance to eat local and a few tips about underground cuisine for my next trip across the Strait. I devoured this book in less than 48 hours. Surprisingly, rather than walking away refreshed, hungover and empty, I ended up coming away with two little sweet musings of social commentary.

The first is straightforward, it spoke to me on the level of identity. In Canada, especially in recently colonized Vancouver, the city is new; “contemporary traditions” are still eking out their own place. In a city so new, so speculative with a bloody history so recently etched on an enigmatic past. There are people pushing their way into the city from every corner of the world, pushing out what was there for so long.

This is exactly how I feel about Vancouver. It’s the place of no place and every place. It’s the place of rehashing the past, of wondering what every other city holds. It’s expensive. It’s beautiful. In turn, it demands money and beauty. The city’s lack of identity, rather than it’s identity itself, is a topic of constant conversation. In this long narrative about the food of X-town and his father, Taylor (perhaps unwittingly) effectively navigates the meaning of Vancouver’s identity beyond any other manifesto I’ve read to date. That the city is, what we stole from history, and how we chose to live with it (quote adopted from Barbara Kingsolver’s Poisonwood Bible).

Taylor successfully manages to integrate these places of immemorial significance into a contemporary hip setting. This is something that few manifestos about Vancouver accomplish. This international-nowhere land party of people rapidly gobbling up the city area has been there for barely two-hundred years, the forest and geography of the city are ancient, and their voices and stories, inescapable are louder and will continue to colour our existence as long as we continue to try to share their space.

What I initially interpreted as a light tasty read, became a vindicating manifesto of what Vancouver is growing into. Taylor’s Stanley Park is a gentle introduction to anyone seeking to integrate themselves into the city from the outside. At times clumsy, the gentle writing tells a balanced tale that goes down as a rich, indulgent meal. Overzealous and at times unmeasured, it cannot be faulted for lack of love or poetry. I look forward to Taylor’s next book.

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